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Amb. Ahriz's special contribution
FM Ban's Visit to Algeria Will Boost Bilateral Ties
Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon South Korea addresses the 59th session of the United Nations General Assembly Sept. 24, 2004. Courtesy AP Photo/Richard Drew

The following article is contributed by His Excellency Algerian Amb. Abdelmoun'aam Ahriz to The Seoul Times on the occasion of South Korea's Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon's visit to Algerian. The article deals with the purpose of Ban's visit and the progress made by Algeria during the last years.

The next visit of Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, to Algeria from January 17 to January 19, 2005, will be a very good opportunity to reassess the Algeria-Korea relations and reinforce the political dialogue and the economic cooperation between the two countries.

His Excellency Algerian Amb. Abdelmoun'aam Ahriz

The visit of President Bouteflika to the Republic of Korea in December 2003 laid down the basis for the energization and the diversification of the bilateral relations. The commerce between Algeria and Korea amounted 535 million dollars (January – November 2004). Algeria exports mainly crud petroleum oils, LNG and LPG to Korea.

Algeria is now a success story.

At the political level, since 1989, our political system has changed with the abolition of the single party and the introduction of pluralism. Free and transparent elections are regularly held, putting in competition numerous parties. The last legislative elections in May, and local ones in October 2002 have been hailed by the whole world for their commendable process and results.

The press is free, diversified and dynamic. Debate in Parliament if open and often passionate. The opposition parties express themselves there with strength and freedom and members vote according to their beliefs. Five parties are part of the government coalition and express their sensitivities in it while sharing responsibility in its management.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika

In this pluralistic framework, several reforms had been launched to modernize the Algerian institutions: that of the educational system which is so essential to foster and strengthen modernity, that of justice which is so necessary for reinforcing the state of law and the judicial security of contracts, and lastly that of the administration and the State which is so important to make public action coherent with social aspirations and the needs of the modern market economy.

At the level of security, the policy of civil concord approved by the Algerian people has undisputedly led to results with an acknowledged return to security in the towns and most of the countryside. During the last few years, in its struggle against terrorism, Algeria paid a high price for peace and security in the Mediterranean region and in the world.

One had unfortunately to wait for the dramatic events of September 2001 in the United States which struck the American people, for the acknowledgement of this reality: Algeria struggled alone during ten years, in an organized isolation and a calculated indifference. Security has come back here thanks to the Algerian people and its army.

At the economic level, which is so decisive to comfort democracy and stability through the creation of wealth and employment and the recession of poverty, the will for reform is total. A social and political consensus has ultimately been achieved in favor of an open and competitive market economy. Macroeconomic balances are better controlled. Public deficits which were so important during the eighties or nineties have give way to surpluses since 2000. External balances are better controlled and inflation is under control.

Algeria Oran Avenue Front de Mer buildings

Algeria has found back rather high GDP growth rates, reaching 2.4 percent in 2000, 3.2 percent in 2001, 4.2 percent in 2002, and 6.8 percent in 2003, i.e., a positive growth for the seventh consecutive year.

The opening of the economy has made rapid progress during recent years. Freedom of enterprise is growing and the private sector is largely dominating in the economy. The sector of energy and mines, the sector of telecommunications, that of air transport or that of the steel industry are widely open to competition, complementing the already ancient opening of the whole sector of consumer industries. The recent sale of a license of mobile telephony adds up to the quest for partners for the traditional operator.

Algeria has embarked on a large-scale privatization programs under which 1200 public firms in various fields of activities are offered for sale or partnership.

Oran Sea Port in Algeria

Thanks to the improvement of the legal and regulatory framework of privatization and investment, the operations of partnership and privatization are getting more numerous. As a result, external direct investments have been increasing in our county for two years and complement the former ones in the sector of hydrocarbons. The banking sector which is widely open to competition, includes twelve private banks.

All these advances have increased in a cumulative way the attractiveness of the Algerian economy for the foreign investor and enable it to draw benefit fully from its exceptional geographical location which opens up for it the most important external markets of the world. Thus, Algeria signed an Agreement of Association with the European Union in April 2002 which opens up the rich European market to investors established on its land.

In signing the Agreement of Association, in achieving the recasting of its customs tariff and the liberalization of its trade, Algeria is making a bet: to transform in depth the efficiency of its economy and take actively part in the international economy through a rapid diversification of its economic activities with the support of foreign enterprises.


Country Profile: Algeria

Algeria, a gateway between Africa and Europe, has been battered by violence over the past half-century.

More than a million Algerians were killed in the fight for independence from France in 1962, and the country has recently emerged from a brutal conflict that followed scrapped elections in 1992.

OVERVIEW

A large country, more than four-fifths of Algeria's territory is covered by the Sahara desert. Oil and gas reserves were discovered here in the 1950s, but the main population centres remain on the northern coast. The country is one of the main suppliers of natural gas to Europe.

Algeria was originally inhabited by Berbers until the Arabs conquered North Africa in the 7th century. Staying mainly in the mountainous regions, the Berbers resisted the spreading Arab influence, managing to preserve much of their language and culture until the present day. They make up some 30% of the total population.

Part of the Turkish Ottoman empire from the 16th century, Algeria was conquered by the French in 1830. The country was given the status of a departement in its own right. The struggle for independence began in 1954 headed by the National Liberation Front, which came to power on independence in 1962.

In the 1990s Algerian politics was dominated by the struggle involving the military and Islamist militants. In 1992 a general election won by an Islamist party was annulled, marking the beginning of a bloody campaign which saw the slaughter of more than 150,000 people.

An amnesty in 1999 led many rebels to lay down their arms. Violence has largely abated, although a state of emergency remains in place.

In October 2001 the government agreed to a series of demands by the minority Berber community, including official recognition of the Berber language, after months of unrest involving Berber youths pressing for greater cultural and political recognition.

FACTS

٠ Population: 32.3 million (UN, 2004)
٠ Capital: Algiers
٠ Area: 2.39m sq km (919,595 sq miles)
٠ Major languages: Arabic, French, Berber
٠ Major religion: Islam
٠ Life expectancy: 68 years (men), 71 years (women) (UN)
٠ Monetary unit: 1 dinar = 100 centimes
٠ Main exports: Oil, gas
٠ GNI per capita: US $1,890 (World Bank, 2003)
٠ Internet domain: .dz
٠ International dialling code: +213

LEADERS

President: Abdelaziz Bouteflika

Abdelaziz Bouteflika was re-elected to a second term as president in a landslide victory in April 2004.

On first taking office in 1999, the one-time foreign minister promised to restore national harmony and to end years of bloodshed.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika

He released thousands of Muslim militants from prison and won national backing for a civil concord in 1999 offering amnesty to armed militants. Many rebels took up the offer and the level of violence declined. Mr Bouteflika has expressed support for a second amnesty for the remaining militants. Algeria under President Bouteflika has won praise from the West for its support in the war on terror.

At home, many Algerians credit the president with the return of security to their country. But some human rights campaigners allege that abuses by the security forces continue, including systematic torture in prisons.

A veteran of the war for independence from France, Mr Bouteflika served as Algerian foreign minister for 16 years until 1979. He went into self-imposed exile for several years in the 1980s to escape corruption charges that were later dropped.

٠ Prime minister: Ahmed Ouyahia
٠ Foreign minister: Abdelaziz Belkhadem
٠ Interior minister: Noureddine Yazid Zerhouni

MEDIA

Algeria's television and radio stations are state-controlled, but there is a lively private press which is often critical of the authorities.

Although there is no overt censorship, amendments to the penal code set out prison terms and fines for insulting or defaming the president, MPs, judges and the army.

Algerian dailies mark the anniversary of the amendments by suspending publication in a protest known as a "day without newspapers."

The use of satellite dishes is widespread; some satellite TV stations based in France target viewers in Algeria and European channels are widely-watched.

The Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontieres organisation reported in 2004 that journalists - particularly those working for private outlets - were subject to legal harrassment and physical attacks.

In 2003 the organisation condemned a ban on media coverage of the release of two senior officials from the outlawed Islamic Salvation Front (FIS).

Algeria can be a dangerous environment for media workers; 57 journalists were murdered between 1993-97. Most of the killings were blamed on armed Islamist groups.

The International Telecommunication Union estimated that the country had 500,000 internet users by 2003.

The press:
٠ El Khabar - private, Arabic-language daily
٠ Le Quotidien d'Oran - private, French-language daily
٠ El Moudjahid - state-run daily
٠ Ech Chaab - state-run daily
٠ El Watan - French-language, private daily
٠ Liberte - private, French-language
٠ La Tribune - private, French-language

Television:
٠ Enterprise Nationale de Television (ENTV) - state-run TV
٠ BRTV - Berber station broadcasting via satellite from France

Radio:
٠ Algerian Radio - operated by state-run Radio-Television Algerienne, runs national Arabic, Berber and French networks and several local stations

News agencies:
٠ Algerian Press Service (APS)
٠ Algerian News Agency (ANA)




 

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